Celebrating Chemistry Week at Albemarle

Celebrating Chemistry Week at Albemarle

National Chemistry Week 2022: Bernardo Cortes
National Chemistry Week 2022
Bernardo at Age 6
Bernardo at Ag 6

When Bernardo Cortes was young, he used to open his toys to see what was inside. 

“I would ask my dad, ‘What’s inside this toy robot?’ and he would respond by handing me a screwdriver and say, ‘I don’t know, but we can figure it out.’” 

That curiosity drives his desire to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Today, the senior chemical researcher in Antofagasta, Chile, seeks new technologies to support lithium extraction. As part of his work, he researches vendors at length, identifies the best option and meets with them to test their products for usability, feasibility, scalability, and sustainability with the Lithium Extraction Technologies (LiET) team in our La Negra lab. 

Since he’s been with Albemarle, Cortes has evaluated between 200-300 companies to determine their technology readiness level. He is often on the road, or in the air, to meet with direct lithium extraction (DLE) companies and learn about their products. Once he feels good about a plan or product, he then takes their information back to our LiET team to test. 

Cortes’ favorite part of his job is that he gets to research and learn new technologies every day. He is determined to be in front of competitors and the market ensuring Albemarle continues to grow and be an industry leader. 

“I think it is important to be at the forefront of extraction technologies and be one of the first to try them. The technology we research will allow Albemarle to advance in growth, productivity, and sustainability.”

National Chemistry Week 2022: Arti Pandya
National Chemistry Week 2022
*The separation of a mixture by passing it in solution or suspension or as a vapor (as in gas chromatography) through a medium in which the components move at different rates.
*The separation of a mixture by passing it in solution or suspension or as a vapor (as in gas chromatography) through a medium in which the components move at different rates.

From a young age, Arti Pandya remembers playing with chromograph paper and watching the water separate the components of the ink causing the dots to react and change colors. Fast-forward to today, Pandya works out of our Baton Rouge lab as a chemist doing just that — albeit more precisely —using ion and gas chromatography* to identify impurities and help Albemarle supply better products.

Going to work excites Pandya — she’s passionate about problem-solving, and this shines through her daily work. “I love my job because it challenges me to come up with ideas and work things out to solve analytical issues pertaining to my technical area,” she says.

In addition to her day job as a chemist for Albemarle, Pandya is a mother of two and a world-traveling nature enthusiast. When she isn’t in the lab, she's likely spending time with her husband, Jigar, and two children, Dhriya and Vedant, or crossing locations off her travel list. Pandya has a long list of travel destinations, many of which are national forests and hiking destinations, as she loves nature. Upcoming trips she’s looking forward to include Zion and Yellowstone National Park. One of her all-time favorite travel experiences was hiking the Beas Kund trail in the Himalayan mountains of Manali, India.

Pandya sees the value she brings to Albemarle and how her line of work directly impacts the success of the company. 

“As an analytical chemist for Albemarle,” she says, “I’m able to track compounds in our products, allowing Albemarle to produce quality products and also assist in new product development.”

Jeff McCall credits his problem-solving mindset as the reason why he serves as chemist at Albemarle today.

“I love learning new techniques,” he said. “Having the opportunity to get my hands on a new piece of equipment or learn a new technique for a piece of equipment I've never handled before is truly one of my favorite things. Once I’m familiar with this new equipment or process, I always look to find new ways to apply methods and techniques where they haven't been before.”

After serving his country as a marine and earning a Bachelors of Science, McCall became a research and technology (R&T) chemist at Albemarle in new battery materials.

As an R&T chemist, McCall feels most at home when he’s in the lab, researching, conducting experiments, and creating new organic metal materials. While the research and development process can be frustrating, filled with unknowns and trial and error, McCall views it like a puzzle, and the insights gained by each experiment or chemical synthesis bring that puzzle closer to completion.

Throughout his tenure, one thing has remained consistent for McCall: his drive to master and optimize any opportunity presented to him. Problem solving is critical to advancing projects, and McCall’s passion for the process has led to the successful synthesis and development of new chemical products for Albemarle and customers.

“I can't look at a process without trying to figure out ways to improve it,” shared McCall. It doesn't matter what or where it is. It could be anything, even making coffee. I'll always try and find a better, faster, improved way of doing it.”

This drive for learning and mastering new things doesn’t just stay with McCall in the lab, it’s ingrained in everything he enjoys. Since starting a family, McCall has found a passion for photography. What started with a point-and-click disposable camera for capturing family memories has evolved into a platform for expression. McCall especially enjoys nature photography.

“It's very soothing, you know, you just go out” he explained. “It gives you a reason to go hang out in the woods or next to a river for a few hours. Getting down and taking pictures of tiny fungi out in the forest; it's a whole world that you don't ever see or think about.”

McCall has also shared his love for photography and camera work with his community, and he has done volunteer videography for his church for more than a decade.

“It's amazing what you get drafted into if you have a decent skill set,” he said, laughing.